Friday 25 April 2014

The imprisonment of a crime lord

Caruana Caruana (71 at the time of this writing) was at one time considered a very successful leader in the Mafia. He and his two brothers had so much money; they would back up a pickup at the Montreal Credit Union with hockey bags full of money and deposit the money in their accounts. Caruana was nicknamed the ‘Rothschild of the Mafia’. Their illegal drugs global empire extended across three continents and it seemed that Caruana was untouchable by the police. Eventually however, in 1986, Canadian justice reached out and finally got a tight grip on Caruana’s neck and dragged him right into prison where he still incarcerated at the time of this writing. 

Ever since his incarceration twenty-eight years ago, he has tried to find  ways to get the courts to permit him to wiggle out of prison but his efforts have always been in vain.                  

In March 1986, he was sentenced to twenty years in prison following his conviction for the offences of import/export and conspiracy to import/export heroin.  He was eventually eligible for parole.  While on parole, he was again charged with conspiracy to import and conspiracy to traffic in cocaine.  He was convicted again for the new offences and sentenced to serve eighteen years in prison, to be served concurrently with the remainder of his 1986 sentence.  As a result, his aggregate sentence was thirty-one years, eleven months and eighteen days, his statutory release date being the 12th of August, 2011. However, his incarceration wouldn’t expire until the 24th of February, 2018  since his parole eligibility date was long past.

If he thought he had a problem in Canada, he had another problem in Italy. He was committed by Italian authorities to stand trial in Italy in 1994 for his role in a crime family and his involvement in an international drug conspiracy between 1977 and 1986.  He was tried along with a number of other defendants.  Prior to the commencement of the trial, the criminal court in Italy found that Caruana was a “defaulter”.  He did not appear at his trial. I don’t know if he was on parole then or still in custody. In any case, the Italian court proceeded in his absence. Caruana was represented by counsel at the trial so he had to know that he was being charged.  He was convicted of offences relating to his role in the international drug conspiracy and with the crime group.

In 1997, Caruana appealed his convictions.  This time he had the benefit of both counsel of his choice and court-appointed counsel but, again, he was not present at the hearing of the appeal.  His appeal was dismissed and, later in 1997, the Italian appeal court sentenced him to twenty-one years and ten months imprisonment.  An enforcement order was issued by the Italian court on February 6, 1998, but no part of the sentence was served as Caruana had “absconded”.        

 In 2000, Caruana pleaded guilty to drug trafficking in Canada and was sentenced to eighteen more years in prison. 

In 2003, Italy began extradition proceedings.  At that time, Caruana was entitled to being considered for conditional release from the Canadian prison in which he was serving his sentence for the Canadian offences.  The record of the case against Caruana provided by Italy showed his involvement with a crime family, international drug transactions and transfers of large sums of money to facilitate those transactions.  The evidence came from informants who had also been charged, electronic surveillance and investigators.  In November 2004, Caruana was ordered committed for surrender on the Italian offences.   

Caruana made submissions to the Canadian Minister of Justice on February 24, 2005, arguing that it would be abusive to surrender him because the trial in Italy was conducted in his absence and he had no further right of appeal or review in that country. On November 17, 2005, the Minister decided against him and ordered Caruana’s surrender to Italy, finding that it was not unjust or oppressive to surrender him given the findings of the extradition judge and that Caruana would be entitled to seek a review of his convictions in Italy.  The Minister found that assurances of a new trial were not necessary since he had respect for the Italian concept of justice. On May 10, 2006, Caruana made further submissions to the successor Minister of Justice and asked that the Minister rescind the surrender order.  The new Minister declined to reconsider the surrender order. 

He appealed his committal and sought a judicial review of the Minister’s surrender order.  His appeal ended up before the Canadian Federal Court of Appeal in 2007.  

He sought to introduce as fresh evidence, the opinion of Ms. Antonella Cuccureddu, an Italian lawyer, regarding whether or not he would be able to successfully obtain a review of his Italian convictions under provisions in Italian criminal law procedure.

This evidence could have been adduced at the previous proceedings before the committal judge or the Minister or both.  Ms. Cuccureddu was known to Caruana prior to the extradition hearing in October 2004, as she was scheduled to give sworn testimony and be cross-examined in September 2004. Caruana didn’t seek to ask her opinion when she was in the witness box at the committal hearing nor did he include it in support of his submissions to the Minister in February 2005 or May 2006. That was stupid omissions on Caruana’s part.

This fresh evidence relates to the availability of the Italian review process and what rights Caruana will have if he was extradited.  That matter is the very essence of the position argued by Caruana’s lawyer at committal and before the Minister so it cannot be said that the issue was new.  In the view of the Court of Appeal, the proposed fresh evidence came too late in the process to be adduced for the first time at his appeal and therefore ought not to be admitted.

His lawyer argued that section 7 of the Charter was violated because he is to be surrendered to Italy where he was convicted in absentia and he has no assurance of a new trial.

That argument was shot down because the Italian authorities had already confirmed that Caruana could seek a review of his conviction.  Furthermore, there was nothing in the record to indicate that Caruana had sought to bring such a review application.  To that extent, the fresh evidence was about the hypothetical outcome of proceedings that wasn’t necessary.  It was speculative at best.  Moreover, the information in his affidavit failed to demonstrate that Caruana’s surrender would be unjust or oppressive and, thus, the issue was not relevant to the Minister’s surrender decision.

His lawyer argued that his client wouldn’t get a fair trial in Italy. The fact that a foreign state has a different legal system does not mean that its system of justice is unfair. The principles of fundamental justice in the extradition context recognize that differences in the criminal justice systems of other jurisdictions are to be respected and that the Charter guarantees are not to be given extraterritorial effect to govern how criminal proceedings in a foreign state are conducted. 

His lawyer had led no evidence to suggest that the safeguards which exist in the Italian justice system in respect of in absentia proceedings operate unfairly, either generally or in Caruana’s specific circumstances.  The fact that the trial proceeded in absentia and the question of whether Caruana is to be granted a review of his convictions are matters that are to be determined by Italy.  

His lawyer also argued that his was committed on unreliable evidence and, consequently, his committal could not stand.

There couldn’t be any doubt that Caruana had indulged in international criminal activity. The evidence in the record of the case was sufficient to justify him being incarcerated.  It was neither manifestly unreliable or defective.  Nor is it vague or conclusory.  It establishes a prima facie case that he was one of the organizing forces of an international heroin drug conspiracy, a member of a crime group and involved in money laundering.  The evidence consisted not only of the testimony of co-operating accomplices but also of bank documents showing that he had received more than $35,000,000 in cash in his various bank accounts of which money was subsequently transferred to Switzerland and paid to people associated with international drug trafficking.  He didn’t put forth any evidence to undermine that what was contained in the record of the case.      

Caruana’s appeal was refused so in desperation, his lawyer appealed to the Canadian Supreme Court to consider Caruana’s appeal. In 2007, that court also dismissed his appeal without giving its reason. He was then sent to Italy to face trial. He was convicted again and is now serving his Italian 21-year sentence in a prison on the Island of Sardinia. Most of his time in that prison is in solitary confinement. That is probably for his own protection.

Italy has another charge they want to slap on him but they would have to argue their case in Canada to justify trying Caruana for the second offence because he wasn’t extradited for that second offence. The Italian authorities have until 2021 to put him on trial for that second charge as the statute of limitation in Italy is 25 years from the date of that crime.

By the time he is released from prison in Italy, he will be a very old man who will have spent a great deal of his latter years in prison. Crime certainly paid him well in his younger days but at such a price. Despite all the money he had prior to the time of his first arrest, none of it saved him from imprisonment.  Was it worth it? I can’t help but wonder if Caruana thinks it was worth it.  Justice is the firm and constant intention to render to everyone that which is due to them and that includes punishment.  The wheel of justice grinds slowly and in Caruana’s case, it ground him into dust.                

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